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Música Celestial from the Convent of the Encarnación

The latest release from the famed Chicago ensemble the Newberry Consort is a live album recorded during a 2014 performance. For this program, they chose an intriguing subject: music from the Convent of the Encarnación. The Order of the Immaculate Conception was a wealthy organization of nuns and the first
such group to arrive in the Americas. With their fortune, they established themselves as a central musical resource in Mexico City, commissioning music to be composed and/or copied for their private use. Some of the music came from relatives of the nuns, such as Fabián Peréz Ximeno, whose daughter was part of the order. The women in the order were practicing musicians: female organists were in demand, presumably so that they might accompany the music in all-female communities, and as a result the recording features three organ works. All of these pieces were written by Spanish composers, highlighting the order’s collection not just of newly composed local music, but also music from their homeland: two works by Tomás Luis de Victoria are nestled in between the lesser-known Pablo Bruna and Juan de Lienas, whose works make up the majority of the recording. The order’s collection now consists of six choirbooks that are preserved in Chicago’s Newberry Library, making the Newberry Consort the perfect ensemble to present this material. The ambience of the recording space is warm and inviting, allowing the all-female choir to showcase the fullness of its range—the altos are particularly clear in the well-known Victoria Vere languore. The consort also makes use of the variety of instruments that might have been found in Mexico City: vihuela, guitar, viola da gamba, and bajón. In addition to the aforementioned Ximeno, the Miserere mihi, Domine and Tristis est anima mea by de Lienas are standout tracks. A worthy addition to anyone’s collection.
—Karen Cook

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